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Championship for Three Years

Final Year Project on Real-Time Microplastics Detection Recognized by HKIE Environmental Division

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The Smart Fish conducts microplastics sampling near the seaside of the HKUST campus.
The Smart Fish conducts microplastics sampling near the seaside of the HKUST campus. [Download Photo]

A team of 2020 graduates from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) in the School of Engineering and Department of Ocean Science (OCES) in the School of Science won the championship of HKIE Environmental Division Prize for Best Final Year Environmental Project 2019-2020 for their final year project on “Real-time Detection of Microplastics Using a Smart Fish Model”. This marks the third straight year for a final year project team from the School of Engineering to receive the championship.

Jointly supervised by Prof. Frank LAM Leung-Yuk of CBE Department and Prof. Cindy LAM Ka-Sin of OCES Department, the cross-disciplinary team was made up of CHEUNG King-Pok, WONG Pui-Him, both BEng in Chemical and Environmental Engineering, HO Man-Yat, BEng in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and CHOW Chun-Sing, BSc in Environmental Science.

The project is a cutting-edge prototype for the online quantification of microplastics (small pieces of plastic with a diameter of less than 5mm) on the seawater surface. Microplastics are ubiquitous in the environment and pose a serious threat to the ocean and aquatic life. Conventional approaches in microplastics research are costly, time-consuming and labor-intensive, hindering the broadening of knowledge frontiers in this area.

The Smart Fish developed by the team provides real-time monitoring and detection of microplastics and water quality in surface water. This significantly reduces the cost and manpower in microplastics sampling and helps alleviate marine pollution. They also developed a feasible and practical staining methodology to differentiate microplastics from other wastes in the seawater sample as well as an image capturing system that transfers real-time data to users via an interactive mobile app.

The success of the project brings a breakthrough in the research field of microplastics quantification and sheds light on marine monitoring technology and ocean exploration.

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